Could one of these two beautiful manor houses be the property of your dreams?
For 70 years from the outbreak of the Second World War, lofty Alderley House in the small south Cotswold village of Alderley, near Wotton-under-Edge, Gloucestershire, was the site of Rose Hill preparatory school until, in 2009, the school merged with Querns Westonbirt and relocated to nearby Tetbury, and the imposing, 25,000sq ft mansion reverted to its historic use as a grand family home. Now, carefully restored, this ‘perfect country house’, set in 26 acres of grounds overlooking the Severn, is back on the market through Strutt & Parker (020–7318 5095) at a guide price of £8 million.
For 350 years from 1656, when the celebrated 17th-century judge and jurist Sir Matthew Hale acquired the manor of Alderley, the Hales were the leading gentry family in the Wotton- under-Edge area of Gloucestershire, their lineage directly traceable to William the Conqueror. The story of the houses they owned and occupied in Alderley is rather more complicated.
Shortly after his arrival in the village, Sir Matthew built himself a substantial new manor house— called The Lower House to distinguish it from The Upper House, the original manor on the other side of the road—which was to be the family seat for more than 100 years after his death in 1676. Ten years later, his descendant— another Matthew Hale—decided to rebuild The Upper House on the slopes of nearby Winner Hill, which then became the main family home.
In 1805, the Alderley properties passed to Robert Hale Blagden Hale, whose eldest son, Robert Blagden Hale, took over The Lower House in the 1830s. Having inherited both houses on his father’s death in 1855, he stood down as Tory MP for West Gloucestershire and became a country gentleman.
Thus, in 1859, he demolished both The Upper House and most of The Lower House to make way for a new, Tudor-style manor house designed by Lewis Vulliamy. Alderley House cost £16,746 15s 8d to build—a snip compared with the vast cost of Westonbirt House, designed later by Vulliamy for Blagden Hale’s brother-in- law, Robert Stayner Holford.
In the mid-1920s, Alderley House was let to Maj Lionel Wynne-Wilson, who ran it as a crammer. In 1939, Rose Hill school was evacuated from Banstead, Surrey, to Alderley House, which became its permanent home when the school trustees bought the freehold in 1950.
On completing the purchase of Alderley House in late 2009, the current owners commissioned Cheltenham- based architect Humphrey Cook Associates to refurbish the Grade II-listed, three-storey mansion in line with Vulliamy’s original 1860s concept. The family’s passion for sport is reflected in an eclectic range of facilities that include a stick-and ball polo ground, a floodlit all-weather manège, the former school sports hall now used as a badminton and netball court, a heated outdoor pool and a tennis court.
For all its size, Alderley House is sensibly arranged for practical family living, with a central staircase hall, five main reception rooms, and a splendid kitchen/breakfast room on the ground floor. The first floor boasts five main bedrooms, with a guest wing and five smaller children’s bedrooms. The second floor houses a series of attic bedrooms/ games rooms and bathrooms and a two-bedroom staff flat. Ancillary buildings include a coach house and a two-bedroom lodge house.
A few miles due south, on the other side of the M4, the same agents quote a guide price of £6.5m for Grade II-listed Holt Manor, near Bradford on Avon, Wiltshire, another significant 17th-century house with 18th- and 19th-century additions— as well as an intriguing cricketing history. Originally held by the monks of Shaftesbury Abbey, Holt was farmed by the De Holte family until 1344, when the manor was sold to William of Edington. When he died, it passed to Amery de St Amend, on whose death it was granted to John de Lisle. The manor remained with the de Lisles for 350 years until 1741, when financial problems forced its sale. The next family to occupy Holt Manor was the Burtons, but, by 1817, it was held by the Forsters, one of whom, Col T. H. S. Forster, added Smith- Barry to his surname in 1930; the Smith-Barrys, Earls of Barrymore, were major Anglo-Irish landowners, renowned for their eccentric behaviour.
Hunting, sailing and cricket were the passions of Arthur Hugh Smith Barry, the 1st Baron Barrymore, who owned 27,000 acres of land in Cork, Tipperary and the UK and played two first-class cricket matches for the MCC, in 1873 and 1875. W. G. Grace is thought to have been one of many cricketing ‘greats’ who played at Holt Manor in the 1st Baron’s heyday. The Smith-Barrys lived on at Holt Manor until the 1980s, when the manor was bought by Giles Clarke, the chairman of the England and Wales Cricket Board. One of many notable houses and estates in this lovely part of Wiltshire, Holt Manor stands in 93 acres of immaculate formal gardens, paddocks, woodland and parkland, which include the former cricket pitch and pavilion.
The present owners, who bought the estate five years ago and are now moving ‘back east’ for family reasons, have refurbished the charming house, built of traditional stone under a Welsh-slate roof, with considerable flair. It boasts five reception rooms, nine bedrooms, six bathrooms and comes with a five-bedroom dower house, a two-bedroom lodge, outbuildings and extensive stabling.
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